• Kyodo News

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New Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said Friday the competition for places in his team is wide open, hinting at the inclusion of several fresh faces for next month’s friendlies against Argentina and South Korea.

While Zaccheroni, who returned to Japan from Italy the same day with four members of his coaching staff and a work permit in hand, said the bulk of the team will be made up of the 23 who traveled to South Africa for the World Cup, he also wanted to inject some new blood into the Blue Samurai.

“I will watch for players who can become a piece of the future for this team,” the former Juventus and AC Milan boss said. “The door is open to everyone.”

“Zac’s” Japan will make its debut on Oct. 8 against Lionel Messi and Argentina at Saitama, followed by his first away test four days later in Seoul against South Korea.

The two matches are the only games scheduled for Japan ahead of the Asian Cup in January in Qatar.

The Italian, who was named to succeed Takeshi Okada at the helm of Japan at the end of August, has been keen to see as many J. League games as possible since he took over.

Zaccheroni was to catch a doubleheader on Saturday, first watching Grampus-Yokohama F. Marinos in Nagoya, before heading south to watch the Osaka derby between Gamba and Cerezo in the evening.

He will fly back up the island for Albirex Niigata-Kyoto Sanga on Sunday.

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